McCreary County ranks near the bottom when it comes to overall health factors according to the sixth annual County Health Rankings Report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute this week.
McCreary ranks 106 out of 120 Kentucky counties in overall rank, and 118th when it comes to overall health behaviors, such as smoking, obesity and physical activity.
According to the report, published online at countyhealthrankings.org,, “the Rankings help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live. The Rankings are unique in their ability to measure the current overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. They also look at a variety of measures that affect the future health of communities, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births.”
“Communities use the Rankings to help identify issues and opportunities for local health improvement, as well as to garner support for initiatives among government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policy makers, and the public.”
Using a variety of criteria, the report looks at two factors, Health Outcomes and Health Factors, to derive the overall ranking.
Health Outcomes looks at length of life, where McCreary ranked 85th in the state, and quality of life, over a three-year period.
The report found McCreary Countians lost a total of 11,000 years of life due to premature death between 2011-13. That number is calculated by looking at the age of death for citizens during that span under the age of 75. For example, a 25-year old passing away adds 50 to the number, whereas a 65-year old would only add 10.
The state average was only 8,800 years.
In quality of life 33 percent of people reported having poor or fair health, compared to 20 percent in Kentucky.
McCreary ranked 113th in overall health factors, with the sub-set of health behaviors at 118.
A high percentage of adult smoking (33 percent) and adult obesity (34 percent) contributed to the low ranking. Also contributing was a higher-than-average rate of teen births. 83 of every 1,000 births in McCreary betweem 2011 and 2013 were to teens between the ages of 15-19.
The report states 21 percent of citizens were uninsured during the three-year period, and a less than average ratio of primary care physicians and dentists negatively impacted the results.
The report identifies “meaningful gaps” that exist between the best and worst Kentucky counties and suggests that policymakers look at these gaps as they search for ways to improve the counties’ health, including: adult smoking, adult obesity, uninsured rates, preventable hospital stays, education levels, unemployment, children in poverty and income inequality.
McCreary County has several gaps identified in the report, such as the high rate of uninsured individuals, unemployment, poverty, availability of health and dental care, and lack of social associations.
Areas of strength in the county were a high availability of exercise opportunities, a higher than average high school graduation rate, below average number of children living in single-parent households, and a low percentage of adults reporting binge or excessive drinking.
“Communities use the rankings to help identify issues and opportunities for local health improvement, as well as to garner support for initiatives among government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policy makers, and the public,” says the report.
The report says, “Every year, over 2,800 deaths in Kentucky could be avoided if all residents in the state had a fair chance to be healthy.”
Melissa Patrick of Kentucky Health News contributed to this story.